In my previous post about the colors around Saint Patrick’s Day, Why Do We Wear Green For St. Patrick’s Day?, I briefly mentioned that one of the original colors associated with Saint Patrick was blue. That’s right, we could all be wearing Saint Patrick’s Blue instead of vibrant shades of green to celebrate the 17th of March.
What Is Saint Patrick’s Blue?
St. Patrick’s Blue is actually several shades of blue, unlike most other colors where the name refers to a single shade. The color blue began to be associated with Saint Patrick in the 1780’s when the Anglo-Irish “Order of St. Patrick” was founded. It can be either a sky blue or a dark, rich blue and in some rare cases a green tinted hue of light blue is also called Saint Patrick’s Blue.
Saint Patrick’s Blue hasn’t vanished entirely, while Ireland does not have an official national color, you can see examples of blue in its Coat of Arms and the Standard of the President of Ireland.
The Order of St. Patrick
The Order of St.Patrick was established in 1783 as a chivalric order in the Kingdom of Ireland. There were a few other Orders during this time so when the Order of Saint Patrick needed to choose its colors they had to pick something new. The Order of the Garter was using a dark blue, The Order of the Thistle was using green, Irish Nationalists were also using green, and the Protestants were using orange.
Eventually the order settled on a light blue similar to the arms of Ireland. Knights and Officers of the order wore a sky blue mantle, riband, hat, and badge. The order never officially called the color Saint Patrick’s Blue, but many outside the order did.
There has been a debate between historians about the color Saint Patrick’s Blue. Not only on the exact shade, but if it was ever a real color at all. Many historians believe that the color was never associated with Saint Patrick outside of the chivalric order which bears his name. The historians that believe it was a color, speculate that the color was closer to a green-blue than a sky blue. This is due to the popularity of a woad-stain that was of a similar color during the time of Saint Patrick.
Despite the debate surrounding Saint Patrick’s Blue you can still find evidence of its impact on Irish culture. Green may be the unofficial color of the country, but blue is used in all of its government symbols. So if you get caught on Saint Patrick’s Day without any green on you can avoid the pinch by teaching them a bit of history.